Politics of Cyprus - Political Conditions

Political Conditions

The division of Cyprus has remained an intractable political problem plaguing relations between Greece and Turkey, and drawing in NATO, of which both Greece and Turkey are members, and latterly the European Union, which has admitted Greece and Cyprus and which Turkey has been seeking to join for over twenty years.

The most recent developments on the island have included the reopening of the border between the two sides, and the failure of an attempt to reunify the island under the terms of a United Nations-sponsored initiative guided by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

None of the Greek Cypriot parties has been able to elect a president by itself or dominate the 56-seat House of Representatives. The 165,000 Greek Cypriot refugees are also a potent political force, along with the independent Orthodox Church of Cyprus, which has some influence in temporal as well as ecclesiastical matters.

The working of the Cypriot state was fraught with difficulty from the very early days after independence in 1960, and intercommunal tension and occasionally violence was, regrettably, a feature of the first decade of Cypriot independence. In 1963, the Cypriot president, Makarios, proposed 13 amendments to the Constitution in order to solve intractable difficulties in filling government posts. Whether this was an attempt to foster increasing unity by dissolving legal boundaries between communities, or to effect domination of the Turkish Cypriots by the majority Greek Cypriots, remains controversial. Whatever Makarios's intentions, violence erupted between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in December 1963 and by the following year the United Nations agreed to undertake peacekeeping operations (UNFICYP).

UN-sponsored negotiations to develop institutional arrangements acceptable to the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities began in 1968; several sets of negotiations and other initiatives followed.

After the 1974 invasion following a Greek junta-based coup attempt, Makarios secured international recognition of his Greek Cypriot government as the sole legal authority on Cyprus, which has proved to be a very significant strategic advantage for the Greek Cypriots in the decades since. Negotiations continued in the years after 1974 with varying degrees of regularity and success, but none resulted in a full reunification. On 15 November 1983 the Turkish Cypriot North declared independence and the formation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which has been recognized only by Turkey. Both sides publicly call for the resolution of intercommunal differences and creation of a new federal system (Greek Cypriot position) or confederate system (Turkish Cypriot position) of government.

Following the 1998 presidential election, Klerides tried to form a government of national unity, by including six ministers from Klerides' Democratic Rally party, two ministers from the socialist EDEK, three from the Democratic Party (who broke ranks with party leader Spyros Kyprianou) and one from the United Democrats. However, a national unity government was not achieved due to the leftist AKEL and centrist Democratic Party rejecting the offer, preferring to remain opposition parties.

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